My husband, Mike, and I came to Shady Grove Fertility about 11 years ago. I had been treated for endometriosis years earlier and didn’t want to wait too long to seek help. We decided we weren’t ready to start treatment and waited a year to return, but this time with better insurance benefits.
I was nervous about starting treatment. I had always struggled a lot with pelvic exams. Treatment involved a lot of medical exams that made me uncomfortable. When we decided to start treatment, my sister-in-law and brother had also started going through treatment and got pregnant on their second IUI cycle. It gave me a lot of hope that this could work for us too.
My first IUI cycle failed and we thought my second IUI was going to fail as well because my husband’s sperm counts were low after the sperm washing, a process in which individual sperm are separated from the semen. We were told to schedule time with the doctor to discuss IVF while I waited two weeks for the blood test.
But then my pregnancy test came up positive! At my first ultrasound, the doctor who told me she didn’t think it would work came in to see for herself as she was so surprised. I gave birth to my first son in May 2010.
SGF miracle #2
When we were ready for baby number two, we didn’t wait long to come back to Shady Grove Fertility. Our old doctor had left by then, so Dr. Jason Bromer took over our care and he agreed to try IUI again since it had worked before. After two failed cycles, Dr. Bromer had me come in again to talk, worried I might be frustrated that the IUIs weren’t working. We agreed on a plan and tried a few more IUIs. I got pregnant the next cycle but miscarried around the 6th week. Heartbroken we tried another cycle and thankfully we were able to get pregnant again.
When SGF graduated me, Dr. Bromer knew I always wanted 3 children and told me to come back again when I was ready to try for a third. I had my second SGF son in January 2014.
Trying for baby #3
When we were ready, we decided to try for one more and headed back to SGF right away. We met with Dr. Bromer again to make a plan to do IUI. It took about 4 cycles to get pregnant this time. At my first ultrasound, I was told the baby’s heartbeat was low and it would probably not survive. Julie, the CRNP at the Frederick office, was very sweet and supportive each week as I came back to check the baby’s heartbeat. The baby was not growing well until one week there was no longer a heartbeat. I was given the option of a natural miscarriage or D&C. I chose natural and the office supported me through the process.
We took a short break to recover from the miscarriage (emotionally and physically) and then tried again. It took 5 IUI cycles to get pregnant again. I was so nervous through the ultrasounds after the last experience, but the office staff was supportive. Eventually I graduated, but at a day shy of 18 weeks pregnant while away on vacation in Disney World, I miscarried a baby boy who we were going to name Zane.
After my first miscarriage, I was really struggling so we decided to take a trip just the three of us so we could make happy memories as a family. That trip helped lift me out of the dark place I found myself in at the time. Disney World became my happy place. When Zane died as hard as it was, being in Disney World helped the world not feel so dark and allowed me to continue to make memories with my family even through our broken hearts.
We have a picture of us on this trip with the characters Joy and Sadness from Inside Out. I’m a mental health counselor so I had always loved this movie because I loved the message of how joy and sadness are related and why sadness is important. It took on a new meaning and made it super important to me that we get that picture. It’s one of my favorite pictures of myself and my family.
We also planted a tree and painted rocks for a rock garden for Zane. Little things mean a lot. I love to watch that tree grow because it helps me feel connected to him. The kids take pictures with the tree a lot, especially for things like the first day of school. There are still really hard moments, but I can walk out to the tree and see a butterfly flying around and I feel like he’s letting me know he’s still with me.
My rainbow girl
We did a consultation with a perinatologist who told us we could try again and were at no increased risk of this happening again. So we went back to SGF and met with Dr. Bromer again and explained what happened. He was supportive and kind even when going through an initial screening caused me to become overwhelmed and upset. I was given space to deal with my feelings and they followed my lead of how I wanted to proceed.
We did another two IUI cycles. In my second cycle during my final ultrasound before trigger, the tech who was measuring my follicles asked me if I wanted the printout. I said no, but she accidentally printed it. She drew a heart on it and handed it to me before saying “I don’t know why I did that. I think because this time it’s going to work and be a girl.” I held onto that printout because I needed her hope. That cycle worked. Again, I was pregnant for the third of October in a row. Terrified to even look at the ultrasound this time, the Frederick office staff continued to be reassuring and supportive.
In May 2019, 3 years, 3 miscarriages, and 11 IUI cycles later, we finally had a baby girl.
My advice to others
Fertility treatment is hard. Take breaks when you need them because your mental health is important. Ask to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss how things are going when it feels hopeless. Dr. Bromer was great at talking to me about where things were and what our options were, so it didn’t feel hopeless.
There’s no real preparation for miscarriage and there’s no right way of dealing with it. All three of my miscarriages affected me and my husband (and kids) differently. You have to listen to your body and do what feels right. Therapy and acupuncture were vitally important after my last miscarriage and throughout my last pregnancy. I don’t know how I would have made it through without those. I also wrote blog posts sometimes when things got hard. I never did it regularly but the process of writing helped me to move my thoughts from where they were to a place I needed them to be.
I also think it’s important to talk about it because I believe my experiences can help others feel connected and less alone when they are going through these difficult experiences. And when I stopped being able to stomach that these awful things were “happening for a reason,” it was much more comforting to feel like these bad things happened and while I can’t control them, I can make good things come from them and give them purpose myself.
The journey has been long and hard and full of ups and downs. My first pregnancy (that the doctors couldn’t believe worked) helped me hold out hope that anything is possible. It always seemed that when I felt the most like giving up, I would find success. I will forever be grateful to the staff at Shady Grove Fertility for making my babies possible and for the compassionate care they provided. And as hard as the journey was, I will always be grateful to have gone through it.